Katherine Arden’s “The Girl in the Tower” (The Winternight Trilogy #2) – A Review.

34050917Story   ★★ 
Writing ★★  
Cover   Mystery ★★★

PROS:Captivating 
      Well written
      Beautiful characters 
      Vivid imagery and descriptions 

CONS: None!


Not sure if anyone still stops by this little corner of the web, but I am back! Hopefully for a longer period, as my life is slowly getting back together after the last 4 tumultuous months. To ease back into blogging, I thought reviewing a sequel would be very much appropriate. So here I am.

If you remember, at the beginning of this year, I had reviewed The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden. I loved every page of it, and I looked forward to the sequel. Usually, with sequels come questions, and apprehensions. For example, would you love the sequel as much as you did the first book? Would the author stay true to the story or go on a tangent in the middle of it? Would the ending be disappointing? Or would you have something to look forward to (and ultimately hope for) after the last words are read? All of these are totally warranted. As a reader, we all make a commitment. We commit our time, our emotions and our thoughts to the book and the story. It is thus normal that we expect things in return.

The Girl in the Tower, the second book of The Winternight Trilogy, continues on with the story of Vasya, in the same magical tone as told in the first book. Vasya, now older and a bit wiser, is left if the choice of marry or spend her life in a convent as a nun. Neither option seem to agree with this Vasya, who is only left with one option: flee before she can be forced into a life she doesn’t wish for. As in The Bear and the Nightingale, Vasya seeks help – even unconsciously – from Morozko, the winter god. With Solovey, the horse Morozko gifts her, she goes on to travel through Russia dressed as a boy, and hoping to see the parts she has never been to. Her journey leads her to the rescue of three young girls from bandits, and later back to her favorite brother Sasha, and their cousin: the Grand Prince of Moscow – Dmitri, who thinks of her to be his cousin Vasilii – a man. This deception, although not intentional, leads Vasya into much more trouble, as her true identity eventually gets revealed to all, putting her, Sasha and her sister Olga at risk.

Throughout the book, we can note Katherine Arden’s beautiful use of prose, and travel to old Russia through Vasya’s eyes. Each page is a turner, with intrigues lying around, and the battle between ‘old’ Rus and new Russia unveiling in this fantasy. We get a glimpse of the life during that time, especially of the place women held in society, and how they were treated. If The Bear and the Nothingale had some flaws, I can confidently say that this sequel was even better than the first part. I found The Girl in the Tower to be more complex and more nuanced, and I think fans of the first part will love this second part, where history, fantasy and magic cohabit together in harmony.

 

Thank you to NetGalley, and Random House Publishing Group – Ballatine and Del Rey for an ARC of The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK:pre-order on Barnes & Noble | Amazon
FOLLOW KATHERINE ARDEN: Website
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 Language: English
 Genre:Science Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism
 ISBN: 9781101885963
 Release date: December 05, 2017
 Publisher: Random House Publishing Group - Ballatine
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Blake Crouch’s “Good Behavior” – A Review.

good-behavior-blake-crouchStory   ★★★★
Writing ★★★★
Cover  
Mystery ★★★★

PROS: Well structured 
      Emotional
      Suspenseful
      Real characters 

CONS: No real ending (what?)
      Author comments throw off the 
      reading cadence

Whoop whoop. Who doesn’t love to read a book that has been adapted for television? When I first received Good Behavior: The Letty Dobesh Chronicles, it was yet to be aired. Now, you can watch the first season on TNT (rather, catch up on the already completed first season) featuring the lovely Michelle Dockery (aka Downton Abbey’s own Lady Mary).

Anyway. Today I’ll tell you a bit about the book itself,since ahem, this is after all a book-review, and not a TV series, blog.

Good Behavior: The Letty Dobesh Chronicles by Blake Crouch is a collection of his three interlinked novellas (The Pain of Others, Sunset Key, and Grab), which follow the (mis)adventures of Letty Dobesh, a thief and drug junkie fresh out of the prison and who finds herself back on the market, stealing for hire. Because the book has been adapted for television, after the first story is over, we are offered a commentary from Blake Crouch on the idea behind the storyline, and what he envisions for Letty as the star of the new TV show. It is like watching behind the scenes of the show after you’ve finished an episode. A bit unusual in the book setting, but nonetheless interesting. I enjoyed the commentaries by Blake, but also found it to somewhat break the reading rhythm. The stories are well written, in a fast paced rhythm that are expected of a crime/mystery style novel. Letty Dobesh is pretty personable, and we often feel bad for her, as her  bad choices are really dictated by her desire to change and do good – hence the clever title Good Behavior.

By now you’ve guessed, I enjoyed this book. Although I understand these were novellas put together as a book, I still would have liked them to be rewritten to actually make one novel, and not a novel in three parts. The reason is that when all was said and done, there was no real ending, no real epilogue/conclusion for the reader to fall on. We can just assume that Letty’s Good Behavior was only temporary and that her desire to reunite with her son and be a good mom, is not as strong as being a world-class thief. I did enjoy however the cliffhangers that were presented to us in each storylines, leaving me completely shocked and mesmerized in the end. To find what will happen next to Letty, I, the reader, am only left with one solution: to watch the TV adaptation. Well done, Blake, well done. However, can we next time have an actual novel with a beginning and an end to satisfy the readers, please? That was my only grievance for this book, and that is why I gave it a 4 star.

That being said, if you love crime/mystery novels, and don’t mind them telling three different stories that build on each other til the end, and love interesting female characters, well, this book is for you. It can be devoured in a couple of hours over a cup or glass of your favorite beverage (Letty would approve).

Thank you to NetGalley, and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of  Good Behavior: The Letty Dobesh Chronicles by Blake Crouch, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound
FOLLOW BLAKE CROUCH: Website
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 Language: English
 Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thrillers
 ISBN-10:  1503940497
 Published: November 15, 2016
 Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Emma Cline’s “The Girls” – A Review.

the-girls-emma-clineStory   ★★★
Writing ★★★
Cover   
Mystery 

PROS: Well structured
      Emotional
 
CONS: A little slow beginning
      No strong characters
      No real plot twists

You have probably seen Emma Cline’s book all over the internet by now. It seemed at one point to be THE book you ought to read, if you were only going to read one book (after all it made it to the NY Times Bestsellers list!).

I really had high hopes for this book. And maybe that’s the problem. I am not sure it if was all the hype constructed around the book, or if it was my hope to read the next “Gone Girl” with an even bigger story twist. Instead… well. It was all but that.

The Girls is Emma Cline’s debut novel and it tells the story of Evie Boyd, a young privileged teenager, who finds herself drawn by a group of girls living in some sort of made-up boho camp ( really a run down ranch), and following an older man as their leader. It is very clear whose story Emma Cline is trying to tell: the infamous Manson clan. The story doesn’t get any more original from that point, instead, we are offered to relive the horrors of the past but it a very slow fashion. Where one would hope to see strong female characters and their take of what it must have been like to be part of a cult like Manson’s was, we are instead offered a pretty pale version. Evie is another stereotyped rich girl who finds herself sucked into something bigger than she had bargained for. We are supposed to feel bad for her, but instead I fell very annoyed by her character and disappointed by all the other female characters in  this book.

As you can imagine by now, I didn’t think much of this debut novel. Yes, it was well structured and well told, but the magic and the surprise elements were just lacking. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong inspiring ourselves from history (what would be do without a good historical fiction anyway?), but there must be something more compelling than just regurgitating facts and changing names. There must be an element of surprise for the reader, and the characters have to be compelling enough to lead us til the end. However, in my humble opinion, The Girls missed the mark.

I give the book a solid 3 stars, and that is mostly due to the fact that despite Emma Cline missing the ‘Thrill’-bandwagon, she was pretty good at describing scenes and translating how Evie felt and why she was drawn to the leader of the cult. We get it – she is lonely, feeling unloved, and desperate for attention. Emma Cline made me understand Evie’s struggle, and why Suzanne seemed so appealing to her. But like I said, besides that, there was nothing else to the story, and that is very sad.

I think Emma Cline has potential to write a good novel, and I hope that someday I will come across a much enticing novel that will really make me rate it 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley, and Random House for an ARC of  The Girls by Emma Cline, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon
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 Language: English
 Genre: Fiction, Coming of Age, Thriller
 ISBN-10:  0735208182
 Published: June 14, 2016
 Publisher: Random House Large Print

Sara Ahmed’s “Living a Feminist Life” – A Review.

living-a-feminist-life-sara-ahmed
Writing     ★★  
Cover       Informative 

PROS:  

CONS: Redundant 
      Too much repetition
      Narrow definition of feminism
     


I like to switch up my reading a little, going from fiction, to non-fiction and vice-versa. I saw Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed some months ago, and was really looking forward to read it and learn from its content.

I thought about whether or not I should share my review of the book with you, as I really don’t like leaving negative reviews. I am always looking to promote authors and encourage them in their labor. However, life is not all made of roses.

Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed aims to show how feminist theory is generated from everyday life and the ordinary experiences of being a feminist at home and at work. The promise to the reader is huge; to understand what feminism is and how to lead a feminist life. However, within the first pages of the book, I quickly realized that I was not going to finish it. I tried my best to get through the book, telling myself that I just needed to get through the (long) introduction and that then! the book and all its promises would be revealed to me. I should have known better. The introduction sets the tone to the book, serving as a preview of what is yet to come. Sara  Ahmed starts off the book as one would expect, through a recollection of memories of her childhood that led her to become a feminist. However, her writing is very scattered and quite redundant. She justifies repetition as a way to reinforce an idea. Although it may be true, I found it quite annoying to find words and concepts to be regurgitated to me every two paragraphs, as if I, the reader would not be able to grasp the highlighted concepts and understand the full implications of what being a feminist or leading a feminist life entails.

I also could not really agree with Sara Ahmed’s view of feminism. It seems that for her, feminism is really a result of either sexism or harassment. However, I believe that feminism embraces many social injustices and seeks to bring social justice as a whole, by promoting an egalitarian and respectful society. Also, Sara Ahmed thinks of feminism as being something that is “sensational”. In fact, she goes through several paragraphs to define the term for us readers (in case we do not understand it), and reiterate that feminism is sensational. I can’t agree with that, as it seems like feminism is a superficial cause, that is not even a cause, but merely a trend which everyone is slowly adopting. Feminism is much more than that.

Living a Feminist Life, should have been a guide to all those who seek to lead a feminist life. Instead, I thought it was more of a memoir, a recollection of life events that led the author to become a feminist. It is also a repository of inspirational quotes by other famous feminists. As such, I think the book should have been titled more like “A collection of personal experiences” or something like “How I live a feminist life, and what inspires me“. I personally have not learned much from this book, and probably this is because I couldn’t make my way through its end. I guess, not all books are meant to be finished, and despite my reluctance to give up, I had to make amends and close the book.

Of course, this is my take on Living a Feminist Life. Another person might have actually enjoyed it better than I did. I really wish it had been me.

Thank you to NetGalley, and Duke University Press for an ARC of  Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon
FOLLOW SARA AHMED: Website
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 Language: English
 Genre: Non-fiction, Feminist Theory, Ethnic Studies
 ISBN-10:  0822363194
 Published: February 3, 2017
 Publisher: Duke University Press Books

Katherine Arden’s “The Bear and the Nightingale” – A Review.

The photo shows a book cover illustratinga forest in the winter, a small wooden house and a feminine figure walking towards the lit house.Story   ★★ 
Writing ★★  
Cover   Mystery ★★

PROS: Captivating 
      Well written
      Beautiful characters 
      Vivid imagery and descriptions 

CONS: occasional over-use of adjectives


Well hello there! This year I am on a mission to read more and consequentially, review more books. I am always happy to receive a free advanced reader copy to review.

What drew me to Katherine Arden’s debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale was the reference to Russian Tales, which animated my childhood. I was excited to see how she would use them to tell a new tale. And I am so happy I got to read this book, which plunged me right as I had hoped, into my childhood and the magic world of Ded-Moroz (the Slavic equivalent of Santa Claus, call him Father Winter), Baba-Yaga (a witch who looks like a grandma), Russalka (a mermaid with magic powers) and so on. Words cannot describe how much pleasure I had reading this “new tale”.

The Bear and the Nightingale, a classic fairytale told in a new light, tells the story of Vasilisa (Vasya) Petrovna, youngest daughter of the grand lord of Lesnyaya Zemlia, Pyotr Vladimirovich, who is also brother-in-law to the grand Prince of Moscow, and of her family. Pyotr Vladimirovich was happily married with four children, Kolya, Olya, Sasha and Lyoshka when his wife Marina died in childbirth, bringing to this world his last born – Vasya. Vasya, her mother told Pyotr, would be like her mother was – gifted with the magical blood of her bloodline. As she dies, she begs her husband to take great care of her daughter. Vasya grows curious of mind and of a wandering nature. She strives to be like her brothers, especially Sasha whom is her favorite; she takes upon herself to dress like a boy, and go onto exploring the surrounding forest. She also befriends the house spirits the villagers all leave ritual offerings for, but which only she is able to see.  Seven years after Marina’s death, Pyotr decides to take a second wife. He goes to Moscow, to introduce his sons, Kolya and Sasha to their uncle and Prince of Moscow. The Prince himself has a daughter, Anna Dmitrievna, who is said to be crazy, as she sees demons everywhere. To kill two birds with one stone, and ensure his son’s successful succession to the throne, the Prince of Moscow strikes a deal with Pyotr: he will take his daughter as his second wife, and in return, Pyotr’s daughter Olya will get to wed a Prince herself. Sasha decides to join a monastery and serve God, meanwhile Kolya insults a man who turns out to be Morozko, the winter-king. Again, Pyotr finds himself striking a deal in Moscow: he promises to give a gift Morozco has intended for his youngest daughter, Vasya in return for the life of Kolya. As Pyotr returns to Lesnyaya Zemlya, he brings back with him a wind of change. A reluctant bride who will prohibit the villagers to continue to give offerings to the household spirits, through the influence of a new priest, Konstantin Nikonovich. With his arrival, and the promotion of Christianity, horrible things will start to happens, of which only Vasya will have the power to stop.

The book is packed with action, and with sub-story lines which indicate Katherine Arden’s plans for a sequel. Written in a lyrical format, The Bear and the Nightingale is evocative, vivid and rich in beautiful descriptions and imagery. It is a page-turner, with beautifully written scenes waiting at each corner. The introduction of so many characters never feels confusing or overwhelming; instead, each character builds the story and invites us to follow them in their journeys. Besides offering us a new re-tale of classic Russian fairy tales, Katherine Arden also takes inspiration in the transitional period of Medieval Rus’. She explores the slowly rising influence of Christianity on pagan societies, and its clash with the old Rus’ – worshipers of old gods and the traditions that embrace it. Throughout the novel we thus note the clash between old traditions and new ones, acts of bravery and fear, and of course good and evil. Overall, it is a tale beautifully told, and I cannot wait to read the sequel of The Bear and the Nightingale.

Thank you to NetGalley, and Random House Publishing Group – Ballatine and Del Rey for an ARC of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon
FOLLOW KATHERINE ARDEN: Website
MORE INFO
 Language: English
 Genre:Science Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism
 ISBN-10: 1101885939
 Published: January 10, 2017
 Publisher: Random House Publishing Group - Ballatine

M.K. Harkins “The Reader” – A Review

the-reader-mk-harkinsStory   ★★ 
Writing   
Cover   Mystery 

PROS: Captivating
      Funny
      Wonderful characters
      Interesting story-line

CONS: The notion of Soul Mate 
is quite redundant

I finished this book a while ago, but didn’t get around to reviewing it until now. So without further ado, here we go.

I was a bit skeptical when I first began the reading of The Reader. I feared this would be another “Twilight” style melodrama, but I was wrong. Right from the first page, I got hooked. The book opens up with the protagonist, Ann, waking up on a beach without any recollection as to where she is and how she got there. Two young men – Archer and Devon, find her and from that moment on, the book picks up in pace. We learn that the world has always been populated to some extent by Readers, Seers and Hijackers, and that a war between the Readers and the Hijackers is going on, and the victory lies in the discovery of who the Lost One is. Ann slowly discovers this paranormal universe and her identity as a Reader, but furthermore her place as a Lost One and everything that it entails. Very quickly, Ann has to learn to distinguish who her friends are from her enemies, as her abilities will help tip off the balance between Good and Evil.

I loved the story-line, and the characters. When I thought I had all of them figured out, M.K.Harkins did a good job by throwing me off the loop with story spins waiting around the corner. The story is told beautifully, and Ann is quite a funny person. I couldn’t stop myself laughing. The paranormal world described is also well set up to compliment the real world in which we live. I loved that Ann is both strong and vulnerable, and witted. Every character was well developed which made the whole story more believable. I did however find a bit annoying the over use of the word Soul Mate throughout the book.

It’s been a long time since I was this thrilled by a paranormal novel, and I was very happy to devour The Reader, which M.K. Harkins did a wonderful job putting together. If you enjoy fast paced novels, paranormal/dystopian worlds, real characters, then you should definitely add The Reader to your next to be read pile of books.

Thank you to NetGalley, and author M.K. Harkins for an ARC of The Reader by M.K. Harkins, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon
FOLLOW M.K.HARKINS: Website
MORE INFO
 Language: English
 Genre:Science Fiction, Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance
 ASIN: B01IM9A6KY
 Published: August 17, 2016
 Publisher: MK Harkins

Luke Gracias “The Devil’s Prayer” – A Review

the-devils-prayer-luke-graciasStory  ★★ 
Writing ★  
Cover Mystery 

PROS: Captivating
      Suspenseful
      Strong characters
      Beautiful narrative

CONS: Slow beginning

Oh Boy.

I finally finished The Devil’s Prayer and I still can’t stop my heart racing with excitement. It has been a while since I had read a book this good. And boy was it good!

The Devil’s Prayer is a historical fiction, and even more a thriller in its way. It opens in Spain, in a convent, with the death of a nun. The first pages set the tone for the whole book, with the reader forming instantly questions, such as What are the pages the nun stole from an ancient book? Why did she steal them? Why would monks of her rank be after her? and Why would she kill herself as a result? We then learn that the nun had two daughters, Siobhan and Jess, and of the two, Siobhan is the one after the truth about her mother’s unusual death. Without going into details, and not wanting to spoil the book for you, Siobhan flies out to Spain, to pay her respects to her mother’s body and maybe learn the real reason why their mother abandoned them a few years earlier to become a nun, and why she decided to end her days so abruptly. When she gets to Spain, what Siobhan finds is more than what she had bargained for, as she retrieves her mother’s confession and learns her ties to the Devil and the importance of the Devil’s Prayer.

At the beginning of the book, I could not help but draw some comparison and similarities with Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, but as I read more, The Devil’s Prayer stood on it’s own. Luke Gracias did a fantastic job with his debut novel, offering an interesting and pretty well researched background on religious belief, while exploring the coexistence of Good and Evil, of God and the Devil. He masterfully shapes the story throughout various timelines, both during Sister Benedictine’s time (who is the mother of Siobhan), as well as way back to the 1220s. Although the book started a bit slow, the pace quickly picks up once we enter the “Confession” part of the book. The Devil is revealed and with him, human’s love for a good bargain. The narrative and its characters are strong, and Gracias masterfully uses historical timelines to tell his story, and draw the reader in suspense with a major cliffhanger waiting for them at the end of the book. Throughout the book, one has to put aside his/hers preconceived notions about Good and Evil, and foremost about religion in itself and embrace, even if it’s just as a work of fiction, the possibility that “maybe” as we pray to God, the Devil also listens, stirring along dreadful events for which we just have no explanations.

If you love historical fiction, fast paced suspenseful stories, mysteries, religious conspiracies…then you will love The Devil’s Prayer. I could not put it down from the moment I picked it up, and I am glad I was offered the opportunity to read it and review it fro you all. I am very impressed by the details and the research Luke Gracias has performed for his story, and I cannot wait to read more from him in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley, author Luke Gracias, and Australian eBook Publisher for an ARC of The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon
FOLLOW LUKE GRACIAS: Website
MORE INFO
 Language: English
 Genre:Historical, Horror, Thriller, Fiction
 ASIN: B01BXR4838
 Published: February 18, 2016
 Publisher: Australian eBook Publisher